Google Engineer Urs Holzle: Speed Is King


Google’s chief engineer Urs Holzle is a speed freak.

He’s so obsessed with Google’s speed, that one time he called an emergency companywide “Code Yellow” emergency, forcing all engineers to stop what they were working on to make the site faster.

Holzle tells this story in the latest edition of Google’s quarterly newsletter, Think Quarterly, which came out today. (Steven Levy also wrote about that incident in his book about Google, “In The Plex.”) 

But Holzle also gave some statistics to explain why speed is so important:

  • When Google search queries slow down a mere 400 milliseconds, traffic drops 0.44%.
  • 80% of people will click away from an Internet video if it stalls loading.
  • When car comparison pricing site reduced loading time from 9 to 1.4 seconds, pageviews per session went up 17% and ad revenue went up 3%.
  • When Shopzilla dropped load times from 7 seconds to 2 seconds, pageviews went up 25% and revenue increased between 7% and 12%.

Holzle explains this is why Google is not only working on speed for its own sites, but also doing things like building Chrome to be super efficient at loading pages, and building a super-fast fibre optic network in Kansas City. Because the faster the Internet is, the more people will use it — which means the more people are likely to use (and stick with using) Google services.